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Full text of "Child Protective Services : a parent's guide"

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Department of 
Social Services 

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Protective Services 

Protective Services 

Name of Social Worker 

Name of Supervisor 

Area Office/Partnership Agency 

Telephone Number 

The Department of Social Services was estab- 
lished under the laws of the Commonwealth 
of Massachusetts to protect children and to 
strengthen and support families. As part of its 
mandate, the Department is required to inves- 
tigate reports of child abuse and child neglect. 

Parenting is challenging and rewarding, but 
it is not always easy. When problems arise, it 
is often the children who are emotionally or 
physically affected. Unfortunately, some parents 
dont know where to turn to get help for their 
children or themselves. 

This booklet was written to explain the role 
of the Departments social workers and other 
staff who work together to serve you and 
your family. 

The Department recognizes that this can be a 
very difficult time for you and your family. 
Please remember that our goal is to ensure the 
safety and well-being of your child fren). 

What kind of services/help does the Department 
provide to families? 

The Department of Social Services offers a variety of 
services. Your social worker will explain these and 
other specific services available in your community. 
They may include: 

• Adoption and guardianship 

• Case management 

• Counseling and other therapeutic services 

• Day care 

• Domestic violence services 

• Foster and residential care 

• Emergency shelter for children and adolescents 

• Family and adolescent mediation 

• Family preservation services 

• Information and referral services 

• Parent aides services 

• Services to pregnant and parenting adolescents 

• Sexual abuse prevention/treatment services 

Are there other state agencies or hotlines helping 
families in need? 

In addition to the Department of Social Services, 
there are other organizations that can provide assistance 
to your family. Several are listed below. Your social 
worker will identify other groups in your community. 

Parents Anonymous has a network of support groups 
for parents who are having difficult times. Please call 

The Parental Stress Line is a 24-hour telephone service 
for parents and children who find themselves in stress- 
ful family situations. Please call 1-800-632-8188. 

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Why has a social worker from the Department 
come to my home? 

A social worker has come to your home because the 
Department received a report that your child may 
have been abused or neglected, or may be at risk of 
being abused or neglected. 

The report, also known as a "51 A," is in response to a 
state law that requires professionals who have contact 
with children (doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, 
child care workers, etc.) to inform the Department if 
they suspect that a child is being abused or neglected. 
These individuals must report suspected child abuse or 
neglect, or they can be fined. The law also allows other 
people (a relative, friend, neighbor, etc.) to file a 51 A 
report if they suspect a child has been abused or 
neglected. The law requires the Department to investi- 
gate 51 A reports. A social worker has come to your 
home as the first step in the investigation of a report. 

When the social worker visits your home, you may 
wish to have someone present with you for the visit. 
At this visit we encourage you to discuss the allegations 
in the report. 

Massachusetts state law requires that the investigation 
be finished within ten (10) days from the date of the 
report. (In an emergency situation, the investigation 
will be finished within twenty- four (24) hours). You 
will be notified by the Department, in writing, of the 
results of the investigation. 

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What if I don't want a social worker to investigate 
my family? 

In most cases, the family and the social worker are able 
to work together during the investigation process. But 
there are some cases where the family will not or refuses 
to talk to the social worker. While it is your right to 
refuse to participate in the investigation, or to refuse to 
allow the social worker into your home, please under- 
stand that we came out of concern for your child and 
your family. If we believe that your child is in immedi- 
ate danger of serious harm and the family will not meet 
with the social worker, the Department will seek help 
from the police or the courts to enter your home to see 
your child. 

What happens during an investigation? 

Once you are informed of the allegations, the social 
worker will begin to gather information and speak to 
members of your immediate family. The social worker 
will want to see all of the children in your home, and 
particularly the child on whose behalf the report was 
filed. The social worker may also want to speak to your 
pediatrician. You may also want to provide the social 
worker with the names of other people who know you 
(a school teacher, a member of the clergy, a neighbor, 
etc.). These interviews with your family and other 
significant people form the basis of the social worker's 

Who filed the report and may I read it? 

The Department cannot reveal the identity of the 
reporter. The social worker will be as specific as possi- 
ble in relating the details of the reported allegations. 
Remember, the social worker has come to your home 
to ensure the safety and well-being of your child. 

Once the social worker completes the investigation, 
you may request a copy of the 51 A report as well as the 
investigation report known as 5 IB. Individual requests 
will be carefully considered on the basis of what is in 
the best interest of your family and child. The majority 
of requests are granted. If the information is made 
available to you, the identity of the reporter(s) will be 

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Will my children be taken away? 

In the vast majority of cases, NO. In fact, nearly all of 
the children served by the Department remain in their 
homes. Our goal is to help parents care for their chil- 
dren and to provide for the children's well-being. 
Unless your child is at risk of serious harm, we will 
provide services to help your family care for the child 
at home, thereby keeping the family together. 

In a small number of cases, where the Department 
determines a child is at immediate risk of serious abuse 
or neglect, the Department will ask the court's permis- 
sion to remove the child. Remember, if a child is 
removed from your home to ensure his or her well- 
being, our goal is to return the child as soon as possible. 
In very rare cases, the Department can remove the child 
without getting the court's permission. However, the 
Department must still go to court for approval the first 
court day following the child's removal. When we must 
remove a child from his or her home we may ask the 
parent(s) to identify family members or friends who 
could care for the child. 

Does the Department file criminal charges? 

No. The Department does not file criminal charges 
and does not have the authority to arrest. However, 
if we support a report of sexual abuse, serious injury 
or death of a child, the law requires the Department to 
notify the District Attorney who has the authority to 
file criminal charges. 

What are my rights? 

Your rights under the law include, but are not 
limited to the following: 

Si You have the right to have the investigation 
conducted in your preferred language. 

■ You have the right to speak with an attorney 
or to have one with you at any time. If the 
Department seeks help from the court, you 
should consult an attorney. If you are unable 
to pay for an attorney, the judge will appoint 
one for you. 

■ You have the right to be notified in writing of 
the Department's finding(s) whether your child 
has been abused or neglected. 

■ You have the right to ask and to have answered 
any questions you might have about the 
process, including the allegation(s) and the 

What happens after an investigation? 

If, based on information gathered during the investiga- 
tion, there is no reason to believe that your child has 
been harmed or is at risk, the report is then "unsup- 
ported." "Unsupported" means the Department did 
not find reason to believe that your child has been 
abused or neglected. The Department will not have 
any further involvement with your family unless you 
voluntarily request our services. If the allegation of 
abuse or neglect is unsupported, your name, the 
name(s) of your child(ren), and any other identifying 
information will be removed from our records in one 
year, as required by law. 

If, based on information gathered during the investiga- 
tion, there is reason to believe that your child has been 
harmed or is at risk, the report is then "supported." 
"Supported" means the Department found reason to 
believe that your child was abused or neglected, and 
that your family may need services. If, during the course 
of the investigation, the person responsible for the 
abuse or neglect is identified, the social worker will 
include the information in the 5 IB investigation report. 
After the investigation is completed, if you and your 
family need services, the social worker will begin a 
"Family Assessment". 

What is a Family Assessment? 

A family assessment is an opportunity for you to work 
with a social worker to identify services that could be 
helpful for your family. The assessment will determine 
whether services are necessary, which services would 
be appropriate and who could best provide those ser- 
vices. This is an opportunity for you and your social 
worker to get to know each other in order to learn more 
about your family's particular needs and your family's 
strengths. You may suggest that others, such as a friend, 
a neighbor, or a member of the clergy, be included in 
the family assessment. 

A family assessment must be completed within forty- 
five (45) working days. The social worker will encour- 
age you to participate in the family assessment. If 
critical services are needed, they can be provided 

After the assessment, a service plan is developed by 
your social worker with your participation. It will 
describe the services your family will receive. The plan 
may include tasks such as making and keeping medical 
appointments for your children, making sure your chil- 
dren get to school, to day care, or to family counseling, 
etc. It also includes timeframes in which we hope these 
tasks will be completed. 

This brochure is 
available in Spanish 

Commonwealth of Massachusetts 
Executive Office of Health and 

Human Services 
Department of Social Services